The Victory Team duo of Mansoor Al Mansoori and Khalfan Suhail Al Muhairi will mount their first serious challenge on the UIM F2 World Championship at the season-opening Grand Prix of Lithuania on the Kaunas Reservoir, this weekend.
Al Mansoori, who went on to win the F4 world crown ahead of F1 Atlantic Team’s Jeremy Brisset and Team Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed Al Muhairbi last season, has been promoted from F4 to F2.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Rashid Al Qemzi is the defending champion in the F2 category that has witnessed the dominance of Swedish drivers led by Erik Stark’s four titles (from 2011 to 2014) and Pierre Lundin’s two world crowns in 2015 and 2016.
This week’s opening round of the F2 World Championship in Kaunas will be followed by the second round in Aalborg, Denmark in mid-June before moving on to Tonsberg, Norway (August 4-5), Ribadouro, Portugal (September 22-23) and finally on to Colombo, Sri Lanka (November 10-11).
For Team Abu Dhabi’s Al Qemzi it will be a return to the scene of his maiden UIM F2 World crown as he begins his title defence at the opening round that will also feature the FR-1000 European Championship.
“The objective is to always be number one on the podium. But this is powerboat racing and anything can happen to even the best. We are confident of doing well and getting a few points in this class of powerboat racing,” said Huraiz Bin Huraiz, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Victory Team.
“The basic idea is to see how our drivers do in this class.
“This season we have deliberately moved along nearly all existing classes of powerboat racing and we are confident that our youth can deliver the goods for the blue boats.”
The Grand Prix of Lithuania will get the green flag at 15:30 (14:30 pm UAE) on Sunday. Competitors will compete on a two-kilometre, six-pin F2 course.
Since it was first held in 1929, the race has gone from strength to strength and as well as its glitz and glamour, the street circuit usually provides plenty of drama on the track.
Ahead of Sunday’s race, we look back at five dramatic moments of the Monaco Grand Prix.
1988 – AYRTON SENNA’S SENSATIONAL QUALIFYING LAP
The Brazilian legend had already topped the same session three years earlier but this time, he proved his class with a mesmerising drive. The McLaren superstar drove around the circuit with such precision and speed that he claimed pole position by a staggering 1.427 seconds ahead of his team-mate and rival Alain Prost. It’s really no surprise considering he won in the streets of the principality six times.
1992 – ENTHRALLING BATTLE BETWEEN AYRTON SENNA AND NIGEL MANSELL
It was wheel-to-wheel stuff from two exceptional drivers. Mansell pitted on lap 71 thinking he had a punctured tyre but Senna surged ahead and took a huge step to claiming his fourth title in the south of France. But Mansell cancelled the seven-second deficit to put him on the tail of the McLaren driver.
The pair then produced an enthralling final three laps as Mansell did his best to pressurise the Brazilian, who just about kept his cool to cross the line in first place.
1996 – 22 STARTERS BUT JUST FOUR FINISHERS
The drivers’ preparations were hit before the race had even begun when rain washed out the track and made conditions extremely difficult to drive in. In the first three laps, seven cars crashed out while four left the race for mechanical reasons. Olivier Panis won the race but you have to feel for Heinz-Harald Frentzen who was the only driver to finish and not get on the podium.
2006 – MICHAEL SCHUMACHER PARKS HIS CAR
There was controversy 12 years ago with all eyes on Michael Schumacher. The Ferrari man parked his car in the middle of Rascasse, which caused officials to bring out the yellow flags so nobody could steal his pole position. He later paid the price as the German was penalised for his actions and forced to start from the back of the grid. He went on to finish fifth.
2015 – MERCEDES AND HAMILTON PAY THE PRICE FOR STRATEGIC ERROR
On a circuit in which it is hard to overtake, making the right decisions of when to pit is key for any driver to taste success. Unfortunately, Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team learnt the hard way in 2015. Leading the race by 24 seconds, a Mercedes strategic error under a Virtual and then Safety car led to the Briton pitting late and subsequently dropping to third, behind rivals Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel, neither of whom opted to stop.
Ed Jones is confident he has “a good race car” underneath him as he prepares to tackle the biggest event on his 2018 calendar, after safely qualifying for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ – the legendary Indianapolis 500.
The talented young UAE-born ace, 23, is currently five races into his sophomore season in the fiercely-disputed IndyCar Series with Chip Ganassi Racing, sitting 14th in the standings among the 28 high-calibre contenders, with a brace of top-ten finishes to his credit including a breakthrough maiden podium around the Streets of Long Beach last month.
While that marked Jones’ first visit to the IndyCar rostrum, it was not his first top-three result – that came this time last year on his Indy 500 debut, as he grabbed headlines with a mature, composed and phenomenally impressive performance that belied his comparative lack of experience at the pinnacle of US open-wheel competition.
Fast forward 12 months, and the 2016 Indy Lights Champion and 2017 IndyCar ‘Rookie of the Year’ is back at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Sunday’s main event.
In second qualifying last Sunday, a small error on his third lap restricted Jones to a frustrated 29th on the grid behind the wheel of his 720bhp Dallara-Honda single-seater. But he remains upbeat about his prospects of moving forward in the 102nd edition of what is the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
“I went into Turn One and just lost the front of the car,” explained the former European F3 Open Champion. “I was heading for the wall on the exit so had to lift, which destroyed my momentum.
“That lap really hurt my average and it was very disappointing to have that happen, especially after having a solid car on Saturday.
“I felt so bad letting the team down, but we have a good race car that drafts up very well to the other cars – maybe even better than the one I had last year.”